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Hummingbirds and the Birds
Wildlife of Ecuador
Photo Tour

Dates: TBA
Price: $ TBA

2018 Trip Report

Check out the videos:
Hummingbirds and Wildlife of Ecuador Photo Tour
Hummingbird Video Portfolio

We've added three new shooting locations for this tour,
for more hummingbirds, birds, and wildlife!

If there is enough interest we will possibly do a second tour.

Hummingbirds are the primary 'focus' of this trip and
Ecuador has an incredible variety!

You will be using our High Speed Flash for the Hummingbird set-ups
as you photograph Hummers and learn how to use high speed flash!
Weather permitting, you will also have the opportunity to photograph
flying bats with our high speed flash setups.

Limited to 6 Participants
Everyone rotates through all
of our high-speed flash sets - no down time!

Sword-billed Hummingbird - one of the most unique of all Hummers
and something you have to see to really believe! At our new, added location, you will
photograph the world's largest hummingbird, the Giant, and other species.

Incredible Hummingbird Photography using our High Speed Flash set-ups characterize this exciting tour to one of the
most accessible and rewarding wildlife destinations for Hummingbirds and other birds and wildlife in the cloud forests and upper Amazon Basin of Ecuador!


Although our primary subject will be Hummingbirds, we'll be shooting a variety of other bird species, landscapes, amphibians, and mammals at several different locations. At several of our hummingbird locations participants will be using our Flash systems to insure razor-sharp, exciting, dynamic photographs, requiring you to do nothing more than tweak an exposure if necessary and focus!

We will have FIVE high-speed Flash Set-ups at our major hummingbird shooting location, meaning that when we are shooting hummingbirds five people will have their own set while one person has time to download and charge batteries. We rotate everyone through all of the hummingbird sets, insuring that you'll have the greatest chance of catching all the action -- no matter which feeder is most active.

No other tour offers this type of accessibility and opportunity. Five sets - six participants - lots of shooting time!

Ecuador's Hummingbirds are incredibly diverse, and you're likely to photograph over twenty species, including the spectacular Swordbill and the charming Booted Racquet-tail, almost everyone's favorite. On our 2016 tour we photographed over 30 different species of hummingbird - check our trip report! For our 2018 tour we saw and photographed as many as 40 species! Read the Trip Report 2018.

Spectacled Bear - The only bear found in South America and the second rarest bear in the world. Our group photographed this bear on our 2016 tour. Read about that tour to have a great idea of what our 2018 was like and what you too can hope to photograph!

We'll be basing our stay at three very diverse locations, where we'll be doing most of our shooting and also using as a base as we do side-trips for particular birds or mammals. At the end of the trip, we've added a daytrip to the Antisana area where we can find several new species of hummingbirds, including the Giant Hummingbird, as well as some higher elevation birds.

Trip Highlights

MLocated on the Equator, Ecuador is a beautiful, stable, and incredibly diverse country, with an incredible variety of Hummingbirds and other bird species. We'll be based at three different lodges, including one in Ecuador's cloud forest, one at the base of the Andies in transitional forest where alpine species like Torrent Ducks and Dippers live adjacent to the forest and subtropical Hummingbirds, and one in the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin, where true tropical forest birds and mammals and frogs and treefrogs are found.

Additionally, in the highlands where, weather permitting, we'll spend a wonderful morning photographing snow-capped volcanoes at our highest elevation of the trip, we may also encounter South America's only bear, the Spectacled Bear. On our 2014 trip we missed two, by just minutes in one case, and in 2013 one passed by within easy viewing the day before we visited the area! In 2016, however, we struck gold -- see the image above!


Although mammal activity is rather limited, except at our third shooting location, we have photographed Three-toed Sloths, Olinquita, and Opossums at our various locations. For anyone interested, and who brings the correct equipment, you would have the opportunity for remote, unmanned photography of the nocturnal mammals. I'll be doing so, and you'll obviously have an opportunity to learn how to do this type of interesting and often surprising and exciting work!

At our third lodge, in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin, we may have the opportunity to photograph a few primates (the Napo Tamarin is almost a definite), in addition to the tropical birds visiting the feeders.

hWe'll be utilizing two or three different locations for hummingbird photography, depending upon the weather. At our first location hummingbirds can be, quite literally, almost as thick as bees and where we'll have several species we would not find elsewhere. It can be rainy, so our shooting may be compromised, or impossible for short periods of time, but we're hoping to have five sets up for shooting. Ecuador has dozens of hummingbird species and by shooting at three locations we'll maximize our opportunities for filming several different species, as well as the bird life found at these locations.

We'll be photographing hummingbirds via two methods. Using the flash setups we are providing, you won't need to carry your own setups. When possible, we'll photograph our hummingbird subjects as they visit flowers we'll have baited with sugar water. This provides some wonderful images, but it can also be a bit tedious, and, before birds get accustomed to a new feeding location, a bit costly for time.

We'll also be shooting birds as they visit traditional feeders, where we won't worry whether or not a feeder shows in the image. Sometimes simple cropping can eliminate a feeder, but I'll be showing you how to make unique, dynamic and original images as well, via Photoshop and Flower EXTRACTIONS that I will provide.


That's the exciting aspect of this tour, as we'll be doing a mini-Photoshop workshop on how you can composite images to maximize our shooting. While all of us would love to be able to shoot every hummingbird at a natural flower, time, cooperation, and opportunity precludes that wish every time. Via Photoshop, however, we can maximize our shooting opportunities!


Some of the following images are composites, and some are straight shots. Can you tell which?




At our third location, we'll be using natural light or on-camera flashes for most of the hummingbird work, as explained below.

Our Various Locations

We will be visiting several great and quite diverse locations, without the inconvenience and the down-time that would be involved in changing lodges frequently. Instead, we'll be based at three locations, all terrific locations for bird and wildlife photography, and within easy driving distance of several other locations. The result -- a tremendous amount of diversity, including scenics, birds, frogs and treefrogs, and mammals. On the final day of the tour we'll head back to Quito and spend the night in a hotel near to the airport. The following morning we'll leave early for a daytrip into the higher elevations of the Antisana area. We'll be looking for a few new species of hummers as well as some other bird species that frequent this high altitude.

Our first Lodge


Three of our five set-ups are shown above. You'll be sitting comfortably at whatever distance you need for the lens you are using, although a 100-400, 70-300, or similar is perfect for these set-ups. Each set-up has four flashes, providing a variety of different lighting, and we have a variety of backgrounds as well.

Although it is usually too uncomfortable to photograph in a heavy rain, we do shoot in drizzles -- which often do not last very long. The birds themselves are fearless!

We'll have four nights at one of the premier Hummingbird photography locations in the world. I'm not exaggerating when I say that hummers at our lodge's feeders are as thick as bees -- it is an incredible sight to see a half dozen species all swarming around a feeder.

Of course, swarms of Hummingbirds are difficult to photograph, and we'll be setting up our special feeders and flowers nearby, siphoning off species that will make our photography easier, and more effective.

This Lodge will be our base for day-trips to three or four other locations, and you'll have plenty of time to photograph Hummingbirds from the comfort of the porches of the Lodge.

Row 1 - Brown Violetear; Brown Inca
Row 2 - Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Row 3 - Green Violetear; Andean Emerald

bThree other locations, too!

We'll do a day trip to two other locations where we'll photograph Hummingbirds, Aracaris, Mot-Mots, and a variety of songbirds. We'll be in Three-toed Sloth country, and if we're lucky we'll get a good view, and great shots, of this interesting and often cryptic species.



cThe Lek

One of the iconic species of the cloud forest is the spectacular Cock-of-the-Rock, a large pigeon-sized bird feathered in a golden orange plumage and topped by a sweeping crest that creates a distinctive and unique shape. Sometimes, the river valley just below our lodge has Cock-of-the-Rocks flying about, but we'll also be vsiting a ranch where a special viewing area/hide can provide spectacular shots.
Left, Photo by Judy Johnson


Guango Lodge

Guango is famous for the incredible Sword-bill Hummingbird, who sports a beak longer than its body. There are a variety of hummingbirds here, including several species, like the Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Collared Inca, Tourmaline Brilliant, and of course the Swordbill.The mountain stream that borders the property has White-capped Dippers, Torrent Ducks, and several forest birds. We'll have flashes set-up but some of the most productive shooting here has been with on-camera flash at the numerous feeders and perching areas. We'll be discussing how to balance flash and ambient light exposures for the most natural look.


Papallacta Pass

We'll be in Spectacled Bear country, South America's only bear, and if the weather is clear, we'll be treated to spectacular views of snow-capped dormant volcanoes. Weather permitting, we'll spend a morning in this high country, looking for bears and endemic birds, and photographing the volcanoes.

tUpper Amazon basin

Our last location will be a beautiful lodge in the upper Amazon Basin. Treefrogs and frogs and other nocturnal subjects, including a variety of insects, are one of the highlights here, although there are a number of new Hummingbird species. We'll be photographing these species in natural light or with on-camera flash, which will also make our other bird and mammal photography more productive as well. Tamarins and the potential for some other jungle mammals, will be other subjects we'll be seeking.


As we visit several different locations, the variety of subjects seems endless...




bMy Objective

You should return with the best photographs of Ecuador's hummingbirds and wildlife possible in the time frame we have available. This doesn't come easily; it requires early starts, patience, and a degree of luck. We'll be supplying the flash equipment so you can expect gear that works and that is suited for the job at hand for photographing the hummingbirds.

What's Included

The photo tour for our Hummingbirds and Wildlife of Ecuador Photo Tour (six participants) is tentatively $5995 based on 2021 land costs from Quito, Ecuador, and includes all accommodations (double occupancy) as specified above, all meals as specified except day one, entrance fees, and ground transportation in our spacious, air-conditioned tour bus. Also included, professional bilingual photo/nature/culture guide, photo guide assistance with workshops and informal learning, assistance with caption and identification information, taxes for all services included and listed. A single rooming supplement is available at an additional cost.

hummerThe tour price includes all meals, a welcome and farewell drink, and the driver/guide's tip. There will be five electronic flash setups (weather permitting), and participants will be rotated in a fair and equal basis through these setups.

Gratuities for hotel or lodge staff, airport transfers, and laundry fees or lodging that takes place before or after the photo tour and those meals are not included. Also not included is Airfare to Ecuador, any Airport departure tax, alchoholic drinks (excepting our welcome and farewell receptions), non-meal time snacks, non-meal time soft drinks and bottled water, and souvenirs.

We always recommend trip cancellation insurance and Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance is required.

Our Roles as Leaders, and Your Role

Mary and I know wildlife, and how to photograph it. I want everyone to obtain great photographs, and to enjoy himself or herself while doing so. Great photography requires patience, luck, and time, and you can trust us that everything we do as your trip leaders will have those priorities - your photos and well-being as an individual in our group -- in mind.
Don't expect me to compromise the group for you, whether that's for tardiness, forgetfulness, or otherwise. We won't. We're up front about our time, tenacity and seriousness, and we want our people to know this. If you join us, that's what you're getting into. I think some people join a group and expect it to conform to their individual demands. We won't do that. If you like to travel privately, or to 'run the show,' or to make selfish demands, we'd suggest you go alone.

Foreign travel is exciting, but it can be exhausting for some. You very well may need to sit out a hummingbird session or feeder shoot and relax one day, and if you feel this way, please do so. We press fairly hard, but we do so because we know that many in the group have high-energy reserves, limited budgets, and inexhaustible enthusiasm, and these folks want as much out of the experience as they can get. We aim to deliver that.

About Your Leaders

joe and maryMy wife Mary Ann and I strive to provide the most comfortable and thorough safari you will experience. Both Mary and I are photographers, and I'd hope you've seen our credits. These included Audubon, National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Living Bird, Birder's World, Wildlife Conservation, and most nature/wildlife calendars.
In 1994 Mary Ann won two first place awards in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, in Endangered Species and in Bird Behavior. In 1998 she had three highly commended images published in the BBC competition, ALL THREE from Kenya! She won first place in the Cemex/Nature's Best photo contest in the Humor Division for Professional Photographers. In 2003 she won first place in Mammal Behavior in the Agfa All Africa photo competition with a dust bathing bull elephant from Samburu. Mary has written a number of children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers, Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past, Amish Tradition and Faith.
I've written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife, The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and The New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography. In 1999 Todtri published African Wildlife, and in 1999 we produced our first instructional video, A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald. The video has received rave reviews, and it is the definitive guide for preparing yourself for a safari. I've won several times for highly commended images in both the Cemex/Nature's Best and the Agfa all Africa photo competitions. In 2003 I won 2nd place in the World in Our Hands category in the BBC competition with an image from Africa. In 2013 I won first place in the Mammal Behavior category, of jaguars fighting, in this competition.
Mary and I were featured in the book, the World's Best Wildlife Photographers, and we write regularly appearing columns in Nature Photographer magazine and in several web magazines. Our latest book, Creatures of the Night, deals with Nocturnal Wildlife, from Bats to Bugs, Reptiles to Mammals, and photographing these subjects. It is available directly through our office.

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